Happy Holidays!

Wow, it’s already the last day of 2013, and this year seemed to just FLY by! I almost can’t believe it will be over in less than 12 hours (at least on the east coast). This has been an extremely challenging year for me, mostly due to my sleep disorder diagnosis. I stopped blogging for almost 6 months before finally getting back into the swing of things last month.

With the holidays (and my sleep disorder!), life has been a little crazy in the last few weeks. The boyfriend and I spent Christmas with my mom in Chicago, and wow it was COLD! It was fun to walk around downtown with the boyfriend and really nice to have a relaxing holiday with my mom. I even had the opportunity to make a Brandied Applesauce Cake for dessert. (I split the batter in to two smaller tube pans, so that my mom wouldn’t be left with an entire leftover cake. And she can bring the second cake in to church or work.)

This week, I’m taking a mini-staycation to relax and catch up on cleaning, baking, and blogging. Today, I got up early and tried to make my first batch of homemade donuts. Unfortunately, they came out a little too dense, so it’s time to modify the recipe and try again! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all these donuts tho… I definitely don’t need to eat them all myself. Haha!

Now, time to take photos for tomorrow’s blog post! Hope everyone has a happy and safe New Years’ Eve!

~ Emily 🙂

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Gingerbread Cake with Eggnog Ice Cream

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For anyone who hasn’t tried it before, ice cream is really hard to photograph. It melts quickly under bright lights and turns in to a less-appetizing puddle. Which is why I suppose food artists use mashed potatoes to mimic ice cream in more-professional shoots. You see, I thought a lot about this last night while rushing to catch a few photos before my Eggnog Ice Cream melted away.

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But I managed to grab a few good photos before giving up and eating the spoils. Thankfully, the melted ice cream worked in this cake’s favor. As the Gingerbread Cake soaked in the melted Eggnog, the flavors blended together to create something amazing!

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On their own, the Gingerbread Cake and Eggnog Ice Cream are delicious. In fact, this cake is so good, that when the cat jumped on the counter and nibbled the corner of a slice, the boyfriend yelled, “You ruined something perfect!” (I just laughed, which I’m sure gave the cat mixed messages…) But put together, the gingerbread and eggnog create a beautiful, sweet, and creamy dessert.

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Both of these recipes are perfect for the upcoming holidays. And, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t fret! The Eggnog Ice Cream can be frozen in the freezer without an ice cream maker. You just need to make sure you break up the crystals as the ice cream freezes to get the ice cream as smooth and creamy as possible.

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To make ice cream without a machine, freeze the ice cream base in a deep baking dish (stainless steel, heavy plastic, or something else durable). After 45 minutes, remove the dish from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a rubber spatula. Put it back in the freezer, removing it every 30 minutes to stir again. The ice cream should be sufficiently frozen after 2 to 3 hours, when you should then transfer it to a freezer-safe plastic container to harden.

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipes!

Rum Balls

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Ever since I was a kid, holidays centered around two things: family time and food! Both my grandmothers are great cooks and bakers, so holidays were always full of amazing food. Christmas Eve was spent at my mom’s parents’ house, where we would have our big family dinner and open presents at midnight, as is tradition in my Norwegian family.

(It was also tradition for the kids to play or color while the adults played Monopoly or cards. I even remember one Christmas where a particularly heated game of Monopoly kept the parents shooing us away until almost 2am!)

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Christmas morning, as the early-riser in the house, I would wake up the rest of the family with great excitement. After breakfast and presents, we’d head over to my dad’s parents’ house. More food and tons of baked goods would always greet us at my grandmother’s house. And one of my favorites, which was really only made during the holidays, was my grandmother’s rum balls!

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For anyone not familiar with rum balls, they are a dense, sweet unbaked cookie. Flavored with chocolate and rum, they are similar to a truffle. Traditional rum balls are usually coated in chocolate sprinkles, powdered sugar, or cocoa powder. But my grandmother modified the recipe slightly and decided to coat the balls in sanding sugar, giving the rum balls a sweet crunchy coating!

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Assembling the rum ball dough is pretty simple. The time-consuming part is rolling and coating all the balls, which is why I suppose my grandmother usually recruited my sister and me to help. The best part about helping though, besides getting to pinch a few rum balls, was licking the chocolate off of our hands! 😉

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This year, I tracked down the recipe from my grandmother and made up a batch of rum balls to share with my friends. And they were devoured so quickly that I made a second batch last night to keep for myself and the boyfriend. Now I just have to resist grabbing one each time I open the fridge… 😛

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

Candy Cane Marshmallows

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There’s a lot to be said about homemade marshmallows. But it can all be mostly summed up in one word: YUM! Homemade marshmallows are scores better than store-bought and are surprisingly simple to make.

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The marshmallows start out with unflavored gelatin and a sugar syrup that’s been cooked to firm-ball stage. The syrup is added to the bloomed gelatin and whipped until light and fluffy. Then flavoring is added, which can range from vanilla to fruity to nutty.

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The marshmallows then “cure” for a few hours, before they are cut in to bite-size pieces. But they can also be swirled with food coloring, layered with different colors or flavors, and piped in fun designs (like Peeps!).

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For the holidays this year, I wanted to make up a batch of peppermint marshmallows. I started off with a batch of white marshmallows with a red swirl, but I wasn’t too impressed. So I decided to layer the marshmallows in red and white and coat them in crushed candy canes!

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The result is delightfully fluffy and minty marshmallows, with a little crunch from the crushed candy canes! They are great on their own but can also be added to hot chocolate for a wonderful hint of peppermint. The marshmallows will keep in an air-tight container for about 3 weeks, if they last that long!

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Serve these marshmallows at your holiday party, or wrap them up in cellophane bags tied with red and white ribbon for holiday gift giving. I know that, to keep myself from gobbling them all up, I’ll assemble some marshmallows in to pretty gift bags for holidays! 😉

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

Eggnog Caramels

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I mentioned on Tuesday that I had a ridiculously long list of Christmas baking last year, most of which I didn’t get to. (Isn’t that the way it always is?) This week I got to cross two things off this year’s list: Tuesday’s Homemade Eggnog and today’s Eggnog Caramels.

The Eggnog Caramels originated as an idea to use leftover holiday nog. I figured I could replace the usual heavy cream with eggnog, and tada! Well, the process was slightly more complicated than that…

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These caramels take an exceptional amount of patience, something I’m usually lacking. All of my previous caramel experience has been of the sauce variety, so making caramel candy was a new adventure in persistence and patience.

For my first batch, I grabbed my big soup pot that I usually use when making caramels (the one that won’t boil over when it furiously bubbles), clipped on my fancy new digital candy thermometer, and got started. When the caramel was taking “too long” to get to the firm-ball stage, I nudged the heat up slightly. And what was, just minutes before, the beautiful aroma of warm milk, maple, and nutmeg quickly turned to that disappointing smell of burnt sugar. 😦

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So I dumped the first batch, switched to a slightly smaller pot so that my thermometer could get a better reading, and started the second batch. This time, I resisted the urge to turn up the heat, and stayed up over an hour past my bedtime carefully watching the caramel bubble away.

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The result was a pan full of beautiful caramel. I’m not a huge fan of eggnog, but I do LOVE caramels. And these are amazing: sweet and creamy, with hints of maple and a good amount of ground nutmeg. I was quite pleased with myself. I even got to try out my new set of candy equipment that I got for my birthday a few weeks ago! 🙂

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These Eggnog Caramels are great for the upcoming holidays and will be a fantastic way to use up leftover nog. (I know that I mentioned on Tuesday that I usually shy away from commercially produced nog, but I wanted to use cooked nog since the caramels are heated to such a high temperature. If you’re concerned about chemicals and preservatives, buy organic nog if you can!) The caramels will keep for up to 3 weeks when stored in an airtight container. Wrap them in wax paper or cling wrap to keep them from sticking together and to make them easier to grab and eat!

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Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

Homemade Eggnog

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Last year, during the holiday season, I had this really long list of things I wanted to make and bake. Unfortunately, as always, life got in the way of completing my entire list. It was pretty ridiculous list, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t finish all of it… 😉

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While I did get to cross off several things, most of the rest got pushed off in to the mysterious “future”. Well, this year, I get to cross off Homemade Eggnog!

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I’ve never really been a huge fan of eggnog. I don’t actively dislike it; I’m just kind of indifferent. But buying the packed stuff from the store always kind of creeped me out, in the same way that buying grocery store cake is usually on my “NO!” list. I like to avoid chemicals and preservatives when I can, so I figured that I might as well make some eggnog myself.

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After doing a little research, I settled on following an Alton Brown recipe. (He’s never steered me wrong!) Of course, I changed a few things to suit my tastes. Also, I decided to go with the cooked method because I knew the nog would spend a few days in the fridge while the boyfriend and I slowly work our way through it.

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If you’re going to go with the raw method, be sure to use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean eggs and avoid contact between the eggs and their shells. (Pasteurized eggs are of course best to avoid salmonella.)

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Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel to ask in the comment section below. And check back tomorrow to see what I decided to make with some nog! 🙂

Download the recipe!